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How to use a brad point bit

Shop for Brad Point Bits

Example of a brad point bit Brad point bits are easy to use. Attention to a few details during set up can guarantee that you will complete your project quickly and with neat results.
An illustration of tear out caused by a hardwood brad point bit in soft wood

Preventing tear out

If you are intending to drill a hole all the way through a piece of wood then you will need to take precautions to make sure the brad point bit does not tear the surface of the wood when it breaks through the bottom of the hole.

A piece of scrap wood, which can be used to help prevent tear out when drilling with a brad point bit You can do this by putting your workpiece on top of a scrap of wood. This will support the wood fibres in your workpiece and stop them from tearing.

It’s usually a good idea to use a different type of wood to the one you’re using for your project. You will then be able to tell when you’ve drilled right through your workpiece because different coloured shavings will come out of the borehole. You might also feel the difference.

A brad point bit in action, with wood shavings being cleared from the bore hole by the bit's flutes Alternatively, if you are using a hand-held drill, you can drill until the brad point just breaks through the surface on the reverse side of the workpiece, then remove the drill bit from the borehole. The hole from the brad point will provide a guide reference to help you locate the centre of the borehole on the reverse side of the wood.
Flip the workpiece over so that you can complete the hole you are boring with your brad point bit from the other side Flip the workpiece over and complete the borehole using the resulting mark as a guide. This will guarantee tear-free results.

Using a brad point bit

It is difficult to keep a drill bit with rounded edges on centre

Step 1 – Select bit size

Brad point bits are usually used for projects that require precision, so make sure the bit you choose matches the size of the dowels or screws you will be using.

For more information, see: How to drill a hole for a dowel with a brad bit point and How to pre-drill screw and nail holes with a brad point bit

An example of a drill press, which is the ideal driver for a brad point bit

Step 2 – Select driver

Brad point bits work best when used in a drill press, as you can clamp your workpiece on the drill press table and guarantee that you’re drilling at the angle you want.

A hand-held drill driver, which can be used to power a brad point bit They can be used with hand-held drill drivers, although it’s always best to use a jig (template) with bushings.

Bushings are metal tubes with holes the same size as your bit to hold it at a set angle to your workpiece, usually right angles. This keeps the drill straight.

Image of a speedometer, reminding DIYers to set the speed on their drill driver correctly before starting to drill

Step 3 – Select speed

Running your brad point bit too fast can generate a lot of heat and cause the borehole to become charred or your bit to lose temper. The chart below provides recommended drill press speeds for different sizes of bit in both hardwood and softwood.

BIT DIAMETER (mm/inches)

3mm (1/8“)

5mm (3/16“) 7mm (1/4“) 8mm (5/16“) 9mm (3/8“) 11mm (7/16“) 12mm (1/2“) 16mm (5/8“) 19mm (3/4“) 22mm (7/8“)

25mm (1″)

HARDWOOD SPEED (rpm)

1000

950 900 800 750 700 600 400 350 300

250

SOFTWOOD SPEED (rpm)

1700

1650 1600 1550 1500 1450 1400 1300 1200 1100

1000

Diagram showing how to alter the speed setting on a cordless drill driver If you are using a power drill, set it to a slow setting for hardwood drilling, and a quicker setting for softwood drilling.

For more information on setting speed, see: Cordless Drill Drivers

A red light to indicate that you should not rush ahead and use a hardwood brad point bit at a high speed Hardwoods need a slower drilling speed because they are more resistant to being drilled. This helps to avoid a build-up of heat through friction.
A green light to show that it's OK to use brad point bits at high speed in softwood Softwoods are less resistant to being drilled and will therefore allow a slightly quicker drilling speed.
Image advising DIYers to locate their brad point bit on the centre mark of their proposed bore hole before they start the drilling process

Step 4 – Check alignment

Make sure you have marked the location of the centre of your hole on your workpiece. Line the tip of your brad point up with it. Position your drill bit so that the brad point is in contact with the wood at this location.

A woodworker who has activated their drill driver and is in the process of using their brad point bit to drill through a piece of wood

Step 5 – Start drilling

Activate your drill press or power drill and apply gentle pressure as the hole is bored. Drill your hole following the guidelines on preventing tear out listed above.

Image of Wonkee looking up information on materials on the Wonkee Donkee website If you’re only planning on drilling a partial hole, see How to drill a hole for a dowel with a brad bit point, replacing the dowel in the guide with the object that you will be inserting into the hole (which may be a drill bit if you’re creating storage, or a pencil if you’re making a wooden desk tidy, for example). If you’re pre-drilling a hole for a nail or a screw, see: How to pre-drill screw and nail holes with a brad point bit
Avoid applying too much pressure to your drill bit while drilling, as this may cause it to clog or char the workpiece Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this can cause the bit to clog or damage your workpiece by increasing friction from the drill bit. If you’re unsure of how much pressure is too much, you can always practise on a scrap piece of the same material.